Using Loath or Loathe Correctly: What’s The Difference?

To make your writing clear, you must be able to know when to use loath or loathe, and this guide will help. 

In the English language, words that have similar spellings and pronunciations are confusing to both writers and speakers. Commonly confused words become common errors when writers and speakers are not fully sure how to tell them apart.

When writing about negative feelings, you may want to use the word loath or loathe. While these two words sound and look similar, they are not synonyms. They have slightly different meanings and connotations that skilled writers can distinguish.

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Loath Or Loathe — How To Tell The Difference

Using loath or loathe correctly

To become skilled in English grammar and English spelling, you must understand how to tell apart words like loath vs. loathe. This guide will help you distinguish between these two commonly confused words.

The Meaning and Pronunciation of Loath

The word loath means “unwilling to do something contrary to one’s ways of thinking,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  It is an adjective. The word loath’s pronunciation ˈlōth with the soft th sound rhymes with the word both. 

Here are some examples of loath used in a sentence:

  • He is loath to save money.
  • The toddler was loath to take a bath.
  • The student was loath to admit she had made an error.

Because loath is an adjective meaning unwilling, it almost always has the word to and an infinitive following it.

Synonyms for Loath

Words that mean the same thing as loath include:

  • Unwilling
  • Hesitant
  • indisposed
  • Reluctant
  • Disinclined

The Meaning and Pronunciation of Loathe

Loath Or Loathe
Loathe is the verb form that means to hate something

The word loathe means “to dislike greatly and often with disgust or intolerance,” according to Merriam-Webster. This verb involves an intense dislike of something. The word loathe’s pronunciation ˈlōt͟h with the hard th sound rhymes with the word betroth. 

More specifically, loathe is always a transitive verb, which means it requires a direct object. The sentence must tell the reader what the person is loathe to do. 

Here are some example sentences using loathe correctly:

  • My toddler loathes taking a bath at the end of the day.
  • He would be loathe to broach the topic of politics at the family dinner.
  • I loathed the main course served at the birthday party.

Synonyms for Loathe

Some verbs that have similar meanings to loathe include:

  • Hate
  • Detest
  • Execrate
  • Despise
  • Abhor

The Etymology of Loath vs. Loathe

The words loath and loathe have similar etymology, which is part of the reason they are often confused. however, they are different parts of speech with slightly different meanings.

The first known use of loath happened in the 12th century. It came from the middle English word loth and the Old English word lāth. This came from the germanic word leid.

Loathe also comes from lāth, but it also comes from the middle English word lothen and the Old English word lathian. it also appeared in English for the first time in the 12th century.

Writing Tips for Keeping Loathe and Loath Straight

Loathe and loath are different parts of speech, but because they sound so similar and people often pronounce them incorrectly, writers sometimes use them incorrectly as well. \

To keep them straight, remember that loathe with an “e” is always a verb. Loath without the “e” is always an adjective. Even if you get the subtle pronunciation difference wrong, you will use the right English spelling for the word.

A Final Word on Loath or Loathe

Loath and loathe are easy to confuse because they both refer to negative feelings. Loathe is the verb form that means to hate something, while loath is the adjective form that means unwilling to do something. 

Remember, loath and loathe are not variant spellings of the same word. One is a verb and one is an adjective. By understanding this distinction, you can improve your writing skill and use these words correctly every time.

FAQs on Loath or Loathe

What does loathe mean?

The verb loathe means to hate or abhor something. This transitive verb requires an object because you must tell the reader what the subject hates. 

What does loath mean?

Loath is an adjective that means unwilling. It shows that the subject is in a state of not feeling willing to do something. An infinitive always follows this adjective.

Do you spell it loath or loathe?

If you are using a word as an adjective, the spelling is loath. If you are using it as a verb, the spelling is loathe.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.